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    Fr Hegarty reflects on T.K. Whitaker’s contribution

    By Noreen Bowden | September 24, 2008

    The Mayo News carries an interesting feature by Fr Kevin Hegarty on T.K. Whitaker, the architect of the modern Irish economy.

    Fr Hegarty cites emigration statistics to highlight the problems of 1955, the year Whitaker became the Secretary of the Department of Finance at the age of 39:

    Between 1951 and 1961 over 400,000 people left the Republic to seek work abroad. During that decade we lost 75 per cent of our birthrate to emigration. The 1956 Census recorded our lowest population since reliable statistics became available. Most of those who left were very young, poorly educated and ill-prepared.

    Fr Hegarty cites as an example of this ill-preparedness an anecdote from Donall MacAmhlaigh’s book “Dialann Deorai”, in which a young man at Holyhead is asked to open his suitcase by a customs official; he is carrying nothing more than a pair of wellington boots with him to his new life.

    As Father Hegarty notes, Whitaker’s economic policies “bore immediate fruit”:

    In the first five years of the new economic programme GNP grew by four per cent each year. Unemployment dropped by a third, emigration fell to less than half of its 1954-61 level. The Census of 1966 recorded an increase in our population. We were on our way to becoming one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

    Read the whole article in the Mayo News.

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